Things Keeping Us Going: Country Fair Edition

My parents’ home is on the biggest island in a big lake in New Hampshire. It is always beautiful. In October, though, it is transcendent.

There is nothing more beautiful in the world than the sight of the White Mountains in the fall when the leaves change from green to brilliant reds, yellows, and oranges. Except, of course, the sight of the White Mountains in full fall color from the grounds of a country fair.

This past Saturday, my Personal Chef and I had a leisurely coffee hour with my folks, did some errands around their house, then headed the next town over to the Sandwich Fair.

There is just something about a country fair.

First we head straight to the midway, because looping in and around the spinning rides is where all the wonderful food is! There’s fried dough, fried chicken, and french fries–of course. And you know there were corn dogs and deep fried oreos. There was ice cream, cotton candy, fudge, and candy apples, too. And because this is New Hampshire, there were several community organizations offering up their best versions of apple crisp. Thanks to the growing food truck scene in the area, there was also a great variety of regional foods–Greek gyros, Cajun jambalaya, Mexican street corn… We stopped for some Japanese gyosa (dumplings).

Then you walk through the rows of barns–each one dedicated to a specific agricultural exhibit. There is the barn for cows, the barn for horses, the barn for sheep, the barn for goats. . .

We stopped a while in the goat barn to watch a supremely confident young girl of all of 9 or 10, looking spiffy in her 4-H show uniform, as she put her goat forward for the judges. The lad standing next to her, was clearly uncomfortable in the starched white shirt with the green 4-leaf clover embroidered on the pocket. He shifted back and forth from one foot to the other, nervous that his goat would not measure up to the girl’s. (It did.)

Then there is the barn full of veggies, herbs, flowers, and baked goods. As we wound through the display, we couldn’t help but overhear the two young college co-eds behind us. It was too early in the day for the college kid crowd, so we presume that they were there in support of a younger sibling (maybe that confident girl from the goat barn). They provided hilarious play-by-play commentary of the judged produce. “And once again, Paul T. takes best-in-show for his beautiful red onions. Look at them! They are simply marvelous!” “Hilary S. has mastered the art of growing and preserving herbs. Have you ever seen such wonderful borage before?”

There’s the row of vendors selling saddles, cowboy boots and hats, tractors and farm equipment, garden furniture, bird houses, Cutco knives, food dehydrators, and in a regional nod, there was a vendor selling maple sugaring equipment.

The highlight for my Personal Chef is always the action happening in the event rings. At one end of the fair grounds, there were horses and then oxen pulling sleds of cement blocks. The event he was REALLY looking forward to, though, was the tractor pulling. The line up of antique tractors hooked up to sleds holding thousands of pounds of weights just delights him.

For me, after the food, the highlight of the fair for me is the craft barn. I love the rows of quilts and handknits and tea cozies. The local wood turner who produced beautiful carvings on the spot looked and sounded exactly as you would imagine a New England carver would. The maker of the goat milk soaps looked just like an extra from a Stevie Nicks video. It tickles me so.

The jumble of sights, smells, and sounds on a sunny fall day at the fairgrounds with the mountains in full color in the background made for a perfect day.

How do you celebrate the change of seasons?

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